Whether it’s dancing through the swimming pool chicane on the glamorous streets of Monte Carlo or sweeping up through the beautiful green countryside of Spa in rural Belgium, Formula One has always had a knack for capturing the world’s attention. From the moment drivers step foot inside the cockpit of a Formula One racing car they are prepared to put it all on the line in a quest for places, points and glory.
Codemaster have been pumping out Formula One titles since 2009 and throughout the course of the last five years have worked tirelessly in an attempt to release the most immersive racing experiences possible, with F1 2015 they are back with all the swagger and panache of a World Champ, but is it good enough to take its place on the top step of the podium?
Graphically Formula One 2015 is a major shift in the right direction from previous titles, the sole focus on the new generation consoles released Codemaster from its previous shackles, allowing for beautiful 1080p visuals while running strong at 60FPS, the sheer attention to detail throughout most aspects of the game are refreshing while adding a lick of gloss and finesse to the racing experience that you simply could not get from the older gen consoles.
Not content with the at times stunning visuals, Codemaster set out to add even more reality to the series with the introduction of commentary from David Croft and Anthony Davidson, of the Sky Sports F1 team. Sadly their only appearances arrive only in fleeting glimpses at the beginning of every event, absent throughout the actual events themselves.
The way to deliver a truly unique racing experience is to allow players to become at one with the car they are driving, players need to feel the engine at their feet, feel the sudden shifts at their fingertips, as is the case in motorsport. Out on track there is a real sense of actually being inside the tight confinements of a Formula One cockpit, every push of the accelerator, every gear change, is felt from within the controller, while outbreaking a rival to make it around a tight hairpin feels unerringly accurate, measured with sheer precision, that for me is a standout factor that sets the game aside from its predecessors.
Formula One cars are designed to be low to the surface of the track, allowing for the car to stick to the ground with the sheer weight of downforce. You are supposed to feel every little movement. That was never more apparent as I shifted up through the vehicles various gears, feeling the engine ticking over with the gentlest of touches coursing throughout my fingers. If you broke late you felt the tires lock up, even a brushed piece of alcove had a surreal feel to it. Codemaster had succeeded in creating the most pure to the touch, immense yet dynamic racing experiences, true to the sport.
Stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up, Codemaster attempted to take the game down a different route entirely, removing several key features from previous games. The most noticeable being a lack of Career Mode, which allowed for players to start out at one of the backend teams, working their way up through the racing ranks before finally finding home at one of the major constructors. The decision to remove Career Mode left the game devoid of any real story mode, while taking away one of the games more competitive elements.
Other surprisingly notable absences were Co-Op Mode, Classic Content and Challenge Mode which left the game a little threadbare on variety. While Codemaster have added a whole host of great new modifications to the series, I can’t help but think they missed a trick by removing so many great and competitive features.
From the main menu, players can choose to take part in two different Formula One Championship seasons, choosing between the 2014 season, which saw Lewis Hamilton become a two time world champion and the current season. Although I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in all that the full Formula One calendar season has to offer, I believe the option to have both seasons on hand was rather a waste of resources, whereas a different feature might have better suited in its place.
Championship Season still holds an allure for any fan of the sport or in particular newcomers, giving players the chance to race at high speed around some of the most beautiful tracks on the racing calendar from Silverstone to Monza, with full practice sessions and qualifying available before the race, there are a lot of hours of racing to experience and enjoy.
Other brand new features to the game include Pro Season where players are stripped of any assists and forced to drive full race distance with manual the only gearbox option, sadly this is as close to a challenge mode as you’re likely to get but is sure to prove a true test for any ardant racing fan who does not require the restrictions of braking assists or an automatic gearbox, while adding endurance to the game. Quick race and Time trial make up the single player activity for the game which while filled with hours of future gameplay, all feel a little repetitive and one sided.
The games online mode has also received a makeover, in the form of a Hopper system, which allows for players to choose from various racing difficulties ranging from beginner to hardcore. This addition helps to aid players by suggesting a separation between those who actually want to race, the purists and those maniacs who want nothing more than to run you off the track. It also aids players in getting them better acquainted with the demands of a higher setting. There is of course the option to set up your own custom series and invite friends. Overall the new online features add a different dynamic to the series while offering a new form of challenge.
While Formula One 2015 might be short of key main features it makes up for it with the host of new game mechanics available. The best new feature by far comes in the form of radio communication between driver and race engineer. While on track the simple tap of the shoulder button brings up a whole host of requests that are readily available when needed. Imagine you’re out on track in dry conditions when suddenly the heavens open, you’re at the mercy of the gods, your first thought should be to make a stop and switch to intermediate or wet tires for better grip.
With the shoulder button or the Kinect system you can request not only a pitstop but the exact tires you want the pit crew to bring out. Other selections allow you to request a quick, yet accurate weather report before checking on the current time difference between yourself and the cars around you, which helps you better understand what strategy to use, while making your through way through the field. While having all of this information at your fingertips or voice control in car is a fantastic idea, it can be extremely hard at times to hear the race engineer over the sound of your own engine revving and roaring.
Another new feature is the option of a tablet which is introduced to each racer in the garage prior to leaving for the track, with the use of the tablet, racers are given the option to choose which tire they feel would be best suited for the current track conditions, again this only adds to the real time feel of being a Formula One driver.
All nineteen tracks are beautifully designed with flawless accuracy, being a massive fan of the sport for the best part of the last twenty years, its great to see so much detail in the design. From the track surface itself to the stands and the surrounding environment, the attention to detail is infallible and the new gen 1080p graphics truly shine through, bringing extra life to the game, as is the case with the pre and post race cinematic’s. The aftermath of any Formula One race should be about the spraying of champagne, to witness driver celebrations were a joy to see.
Overall, Codemasters set out to deliver a truly unique racing experience and in that sense they have succeeded. The in car feel is as close as you are ever likely to get to actually being inside a Formula One cockpit without the risk of a spin or crash. The new game mechanics breathe fresh air into the lungs of the series, this coupled with the new gen graphics make for a very entertaining and realistic racing experience. Sadly the loss of major main game features such as Career Mode let the game down, without these modes the game feels rather empty and one dimensional. Although there is a lot of replay value to F1 2015, I can’t help but feel that if it’s not broke don’t fix it.
This is Codemasters next gen Formula One debut and it is a game that belongs on the console, though it disappoints in key areas. Despite all of this it is a Motorsport game worth buying, especially for the Formula One enthusiasts with hours of enjoyable, exhilarating racing to experience.